Evan Fournier is One of NBA’s Most Underrated Shooters

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO - One of the stars of Wednesday’s opening-night Orlando Magic win was Evan Fournier, who scored 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting overall and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Three of those buckets – a 3-pointer, a driving floater and an AND-1 layup – came down the stretch when Orlando pulled away from the Miami Heat.

Last season, which was one of his best as a pro, the 6-foot-7 swingman was the Magic’s most reliable outside shooter. He shot 39.9 percent from downtown. Before the restart at Disney, though, he was at 40.6 percent, best on the Magic. He shot just 28.8 percent from beyond the arc in Orlando’s seeding games, and then 34.3 percent in the playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

He made five or more 3-pointers in 11 games in 2019-20. That was tied for the fourth most times in a season that a Magic player buried at least five triples. Dennis Scott had five or more threes in 18 games in 1995-96, Terrence Ross 15 of them in 2018-19, Scott 12 in 1994-95 and Ryan Anderson 11 in 2011-12.

Even more impressive, though, was Fournier’s shooting accuracy. From 20 to 25 feet away from the basket, according to Stathead’s database, the Magic veteran shot 51.9 percent on 158 attempts last season.

Since the 1996-97 season, which is how far back Stathead tracks shots from specific distances, that is the eighth best percentage in one season from that range among players who took at least 150 of those shots. Glen Rice, who shot 57.7 percent from this range in 1996-97, ranks No. 1 in this unique category. Dell Curry (1996-97), Jason Kapono (2006-07), Jeff Hornacek (1999-00), Mike Miller (2004-05), Bojan Bogdanovic (2018-19) and Ron Mercer (1997-98) are the only players during this period of time that shot it better than Fournier.

One of Fournier’s shots on Wednesday came from this distance, and, as you probably would expect, was a make.

As a team, the Magic were not great from long range last season. They ranked 25th in 3-point percentage (34.3 percent) and were 22nd in made threes per game (11.1).

Also interesting, Orlando took the fewest corner 3-pointers in the league in 2019-20 with 363 of them. In the four preseason games, the Magic did appear to make a concerted effort to create more looks in the corners, which is where teams generally shoot a much higher percentage from downtown.

If they are going to shoot the ball better from 3-point land this season, the Magic will need hot shooting nights from Fournier regularly.

“Evan did what he’s been doing for us for a long time now,” teammate Nikola Vucevic said. “We know he comes up big in (the) end of games. He enjoys those moments. He was aggressive as always. We know what Evan brings to the table. He just did it tonight at a very efficient level. He’s a very good scorer.”

Different from many of the league’s other elite shooters, Fournier is forced to create shots for himself most of the time. Guys like Miami’s Duncan Robinson, New Orleans’ J.J. Redick and Houston’s Eric Gordon rely on teammates to set them up with shots as they fly around off-ball screens or spot up and wait for kickouts.

Reviewing Fournier’s shot chart from Wednesday and examining how closely contested those attempts were, it’s clear just how hard he works to generate offense. According to Second Spectrum tracking data, 10 of his 13 shot attempts were contested, eight of which he made. Two of those buckets came with the 6-foot-9 Bam Adebayo challenging the shot, while both Andre Iguodala and Jimmy Butler, two of the league’s premier defenders, were right near him when he scored a layup and got fouled with 49.5 seconds remaining.

“That play at the end, they switched so I had Iguodala on me so I was trying to get the ball in the post. As I caught it, Evan was able to back out his guy (Robinson) because I think his guy kind of turned towards me. He was trying to help. So Evan took advantage of it. He made a great cut and I was able to get (it to) him and he made a great finish over Iguodala (and Jimmy Butler), who came over to help,” Vucevic recalled. “I think it does come a little bit from continuity from us playing together for so long. Having that feel for each other on the court. That always helps. I think it was a good play, team play from all of us to kind of get that extra bucket that kind of put the game away.”